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Scottish referee says he's changed after stepping down over Neil Lennon Facebook posts

Celtic manager Neil Lennon (Gavin McCafferty/PA)
Celtic manager Neil Lennon (Gavin McCafferty/PA)

A Scottish football referee has said he is a changed man after he stepped down from his position over historic Facebook messages concerning Celtic and their manager Neil Lennon.

Stephen Brown posted a series of messages back in 2010 and which have since been deleted.

They have been seen by the Daily Mail, which described the messages as "sectarian, discriminatory and homophobic".

The Mail reports the matter was referred to the Scottish FA's Judicial Panel which issued a censure and Brown's offer to resign was turned down by the local referee association.

As the 35-year-old became eligible to take charge of category one games - which would involve Old Firm games - his position became untenable under the Scottish FA's equality, diversity and inclusion programme.

Chief executive Ian Maxwell said the historic baggage would make it impossible for the referee to handle games involving Celtic or Rangers or any game which would have implications for the Glasgow sides.

Speaking to the Mail, Brown said he took full responsibility for the posts which were made during a period of "great personal difficulty".

"While they don't mitigate that behaviour, explain it," he said.

"I expressed deep regret and remorse at the time and the person I am now is unrecognisable to the person I was then.

"I am embarrassed by what I wrote."

He added: "Refereeing has given me a second chance in life and I am grateful for that opportunity. I am devastated that my actions from the past will prevent me from fulfilling my potential as a match official but appreciate that perceptions linger, regardless of how much sorrow or regret I express."

Neil Lennon, in his second spell at Parkhead, was appointed Celtic boss full time after guiding the team to its third successive Scottish Cup success and an unprecedented treble, treble following the sudden departure of Brendan Rodgers in February.

The former Northern Ireland captain spent four years at Parkhead winning three league titles and two Scottish cups between 2010 and 2014 before moving to Bolton and then Hibernian in 2016.

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